Harvard To 'Free The Law'

Bad NewsDon’t Baby Law School Applicants

Imagine when you were a child. There’s this candy you want at the store down the street. Of course, your parents, looking out for your nutritional best, say they’re not going to buy it for you. But, wanting to teach you a lesson on the value of a hard-earned dollar, assign you chores around the house to earn the candy yourself. You put in weeks of work. And then the time comes and you skip down to the store, only to find out that pesky cashier refuses to sell it to you. And your candy dreams are dashed.
This is a much lower-consequences version of what Harvard Law professor Noah Feldman says can happen in his opinion article published by Bloomberg View this week. “Today, our conception of meritocracy at many elite universities has morphed into a technocratic faith in the capacity of admissions officers to admit only those who can succeed — and by implication to keep out those who can’t,” Feldman writes.
And he does have a point. Who are admissions officers or law schools to deny dreams? His view, of course, stems from the ongoing national dialogue of what to do with the declining bar pass rates and drooping LSAT scores for admitted students, who are graduating with low odds of becoming lawyers and six figures of debt. Many have suggested, in response, to not admit students with low LSAT scores since the LSAT is widely considered an indicator of bar exam success before law school.
“This view assumes that it’s up to the law schools to make the threshold decision paternalistically, “saving” naive college graduates from pursuing the dream of becoming lawyers when there’s no guarantee that they’ll succeed. It treats standardized test scores as destiny and correlation-based studies as gospel,” Feldman pens.
Feldman continues by stating Harvard Law was built on a century of the “look to your left, look to your right; one of you won’t be here by the end of the year” intimidation speech. Indeed, not everyone can get into Harvard, Yale, Stanford, or any of the other elite schools. To be sure, the lower-ranked schools do serve a purpose in producing many who dream of being lawyers and do not have the academic background to get into other higher-ranked schools.
However, it’s also starting to get out of hand. Yes, admissions offices of law schools shouldn’t ‘baby’ or predict applicants with lower LSAT scores by denying admission. But some admissions offices seem to have ulterior motives by letting anyone into their schools. There is no “look to your left, look to your right” weed-out happening. There is a near open-enrollment policy and no failure until students sit for the bar. By then, it’s too late.
Perhaps Feldman is correct and law school admissions offices shouldn’t baby law applicants. But there is growing concern an evidence pointing to those admissions offices needing some paternalism from a higher authority.
Source: Bloomberg View

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